What Clothes Should I Wear in Phoenix?

Desert Wardrobe Tips

Family with two children walking together by swimming pool
••• Resort Casual Attire. Caiaimage / Paul Bradbury / Getty Images

People who visit the Phoenix area are sometimes uncertain about what clothing to bring to the desert. Should you bring your coats and boots in the winter? Do people wear black in the desert heat? Does everyone wear sandals? What do people in Phoenix wear to business meetings in the summer?

Do I need a winter coat, corduroy pants, scarves and/or gloves?

During the winter months we have days that get down to the 30s at night, and there will be frost in parts of the Valley of the Sun.

In the winter, it is not unusual for us to have a 40-degree swing between nighttime and daytime temperatures, so some layering will be in order. Also, don't forget that we have serious weather just a couple of hours away, in case you take a day trip to Sedona or farther north, like to Grand Canyon.

Is business attire different in the summer in Phoenix than it is in the winter?

Some companies have summer wardrobe exceptions and that will vary with the company. Many companies allow women to dispense with the pantyhose for the summer, and encourage slacks during those months. Cropped pants or capris are often not permitted.

For men, companies often invoke a no necktie policy, and sometimes allow golf shirts in the summer, even though the dress code might otherwise call for suits. Some of our public safety personnel (police and fire) have shorts as part of their uniforms. Many companies here in Phoenix have a more casual dress policy than in some large cities all year round, and casual Fridays, where jeans are permitted, are fairly common.

If you are visiting Phoenix for business meetings, check with the company first. It is always safest to overdress than underdress; you can always ditch the suit jacket and tie is everyone else is wearing chinos with a golf shirt.

I have lots of sweaters. Should I give them away if I move to Arizona?

I love my sweaters and corduroy pants, even though I only get to wear them for a couple of months each year.

I just can't bear to give them up. You'll find that you will look forward to some changes in weather and clothing, because we don't have the traditional change of seasons. I love my shorts and tees, but along about October I get itchy to wear long pants and sweaters again.

What do people wear in the summer in Phoenix for casual attire?

The general rule is to wear loose-fitting clothing that breathes, like cottons and linens. People wear shorts and tee shirts and tank tops. Sunburn is a reality, and a moisturizer with sunscreen is my recommendation, especially if you aren't used to a dry climate. People wear hats or baseball caps to protect themselves from the sun. Sunglasses are a must, for you as well as for your kids.

What does "resort casual" mean in Phoenix or Scottsdale?

There are very few restaurants in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area that will turn people away due to attire. Shorts, tee shirts and flip flops are often seen at casual restaurants, but upscale restaurants may request "resort casual" attire. For women, that might mean a sundress or slacks/capris with a nice blouse and sandals. For men, that might mean slacks and a collared shirt (patterns are fine) or a nice polo shirt.

Nice (not torn) shorts and a golf shirt probably qualify if it is a golf property. Some restaurants might turn you away if you are wearing a baseball cap, gang attire, or clothing with vulgar writing. If you intend to push the envelope, you might call the restaurant first.

Do people in the desert wear black clothes?

There are people here who wear a lot of black, but probably not as much as back east or in more 'business-oriented' cities like San Francisco. Black slacks with cotton blouses, black skirts with cotton blouses, black shorts with cotton tanks -- those are all just fine. As far as black in the summer, I don't think it's a problem unless you work outside. The key is to wear fabrics that are loose and breathable, as mentioned above.

What kind of shoes do people wear in the summer?

Women often wear sandals.

Men do, too, but not to work. Everyone wears flip flops around the house or to go shopping. You'll also see more people wearing running shoes or sneakers (but not white ones) than you do in New York or San Francisco.

I don't want to look out of place. Any warnings?

Arizonans can always tell who the out-of-towners or desert newbies are. They are the people wearing shorts and tank tops when it's 65 degrees in the winter, and they are the ones who are sunbathing by the pool in the sweltering heat of the summer trying to get a sunburn!